A Job Shop is typically a small sized manufacturer who runs custom and semi-custom work. They may have repeat orders but more often than not Job shops take "the hard to engineer" stuff and make it. Now, certainly having flexibility allows for the research and design of new products but a common struggle in the Job Shop world is a combination of Product Variability, Scheduling and resource utilization. So how does Lean Solve these common issues?
Lean Focuses on the process instead of the person or the part. Certainly making a good part is good and will yield positive results for any organization but the concept is "The right process will produce the right result" every single time. For this reason defining the results that you want is very important, then we can look at how the value stream get's you there. Let's look at some common "results" in job shops.
The Setup (spend less time)
Job Shops are often times the ones making very intricate parts and have a somewhat "intermittent" environment to begin with, for this reason a job shop can really benefit from Setup reductions. In a Job shop a lot of time is spent just setting up the various components of a job so that you can run it. Then you avoid changeover so that you don't have to to "Set-up" again. 50 some odd years ago these ""Set-ups" may have been okay but as the need to streamline parts and be competitive at a global level has developed customers are not always willing to pay the set-up anymore. SMED and set-up reduction is a great skill for the people on the machines to master, infact..... Throw away the belts, yes we said it throw away the belts and teach your front line force to see and identify waste, differentiate between value and non value and reduce setup times and you will see some huge results.
Teach the Frontline to see the difference?
The major difference is seeing and differentiating Value from its non-value counterparts. In a Job shop when the part is on the machine and running it is still yielding value just like a part in a production shop. But how about the queue, wait and move? Were not hinting at anything here, well yes we are but in a Job shop identifying non value can be powerful. You will find as you walk through any Job shop environment that a good place to start your lean journey (like many other manufacturing environments) is removing the waste from Processes and Systems. If everybody in the Shop knows the elements of Value and Non-Value and the proper way to map their Processes or Systems you will have a much better shot at improving your business overall. Keep in mind we used the words systems and processes above. Those two words indicate that yes there is a material flow but more importantly you will find Information flow to be a major improvement opportunity in a Job shop, most likely those opportunities with Information flow will yield much bigger results than the material flow.
Be aware of Differences and Similarities
Although Much of the Tactical side of Lean's strategy is the same there are some pieces of a Job shop puzzles that need experience and have to be molded very finely. For instance you may wish to use elements of Just-In-Time pillar like Kanban system. A Kanban system can act as a trigger rather than jumping straight into continuous flow (which varies by product). Although Some elements of a Job Shop are clearly different than a Production environment, Waste no matter how you look at it is still waste and can still be treated in much the same manner. In a Job shop finding solutions for the Mura origin of waste becomes much more critical to seeing results. This will require Level loading/heijunka type applications. Keep in mind you may never obtain a perfectly leveled "job shop" but the improvements you will find in the leveling realm will certainly place a smile on your face.
In Short, Lean in a job Shop is just as effective as a production environment. Although the forms of waste will be unique in there own respect, that is the same in all organizations. Along with Increased Capacity, Reduced Manufacturing times and improved utilization of Assets Job Shops will often be able to do much, much more with far less resources when jumping into a Lean Strategy. Overall seeing a Sleek streamlined and efficient job shop truly is a beautiful site and all though you may not see it at first glance you can bet that there are elements of Lean in many Job Shops.
In Closing, Is Lean for a Job Shop? You better believe it.